Today is literature class, Children! As I keep telling you, appearances can be deceptive, never judge a book by its cover, and other boring cliches. William Shakespeare put it rather elegantly in ‘Macbeth’, when one of his characters, King Duncan, ruefully says, “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face,” after he discovers that the Thane of Cawdor was a traitor. Sadly, even after that revelation, poor King Duncan continues to be a gullible goose and is murdered by his trusted captain Macbeth while he’s a guest at his house. Moral of the story: Trust no one, and never do sleepovers!
Now I want all of you to try your hand at a modern Indian adaptation of ‘Macbeth’. I’ll kick it off to give you an example, Children. *Clears throat*
Act I, Scene I: A cocktail party at the house of a media owner in Delhi. Note: a posh cigar-chomping media owner, not a Pan Parag-chewing one. The guests include his celebrity staffers, editors and star journalist from other media houses, sophisticated netas (only) across all parties, Delhi’s beautiful people, and a handful of terribly pompous men who are referred to as public intellectuals despite getting things wrong all the time.
Wine is delicately sipped, single malts are determinedly knocked back, fascists and liberals mingle, and the room buzzes with cheerful political chatter and gossip. We catch only a few words here and there till a couple (a female news anchor and a bald, bespectacled fascist) step to the front of the stage.
News anchor: You must tell your party to stop lynching minorities! It makes you look so bad, although I know you’re a wonderful, wonderful person!
Fascist: My dear lady, I don’t approve myself, but the Mughals you see.
The doorbell rings, and a few seconds later, a young opposition leader strides in. The celebrity staffers and other star journalists squeal with joy and rush towards him. Before he’s had the first sip of his drink, he’s been told how brilliant, smart, hardworking, intelligent, fantabulous, etc, he is, and his chest swells to 56-inches.
“They’re quite right,” he thinks to himself, “I bloody well am brilliant, smart, hardworking, intelligent, fantabulous, etc, and more!”
His spirits soar almost sky high as a drunk public intellectual totters towards the bar for a refill and shouts out to him, “You should be hic, head of the state my boy, prime minister of India too, hic. Shame you’re not.” All but one of the celebrity staffers and star journalists cheer vociferously at that. “The old soak said that about several people before and boy, was he wrong!”a cynical middle aged man mutters under his breath. Fortunately, no one but the audience hears him.
As the young opposition neta glows like a chandelier at the praise, the bald, bespectacled fascist brushes past him accidentally on purpose and whispers: “Meet me at the cowshed in an hour.”
“Which cowshed,” he whispers back?
“The one your friend, that Chowkidar formerly known as Prince recently went to, you idiot,” he snaps.
Act 5, Scene 3:
The young opposition neta is sitting anxiously at a bar in a resort, his cell phone stuck to his ear. He is surrounded by a small bunch of netas who don’t look like him or dress like him. They’re enjoying themselves drinking whisky and eating kebabs paid for by a fascist party that wants to buy them.
Neta 1: (Takes a long swig and sighs) This is the life! I never want to leave this place.
Neta 2: (Grins) Cheers! We may be here for months, since Dufus here can’t inspire more of us to join him.
Neta 1: (Whispers) Seriously! The media says he’s a brilliant mass leader, but hello, where’s the mass, there’s only Lal Maas here! As if a handful of us can topple the government. Heck, my wife will beat me because I told her I’ll be coming home with 30 Cr!
Neta 2: (Groans) Same problem. Promised the kids I’d buy iPhones for them. Oh look, Dufus has turned on the TV and is signalling that we look. A press conference or something.
A hush falls in the bar. Eyes widen dramatically.
Watch this space to see what happens next.
(Any resemblance to real characters or events is a coincidence. This is a work of fiction)